The Children of Chernobyl
Chernobyl -4, a graphite moderated light water electric power reactor located near the town of Pripyat In Ukraine, suffered a catastrophic explosion at 0123 UTC on the 26th of April, 1986.
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Within a 30 km radius of the reactor site lived about 125,000 people, including about 49,000 inhabitants in Pripyat. The Chernobyl site was about 130 km north of Kiev. Immediately following the explosions radioactive volatile gases and solids were vented into the atmosphere.
As a direct result of the catastrophe 30 people lost their life, mostly operators and fire fighters at the site. Some 125,000 people in the immediate region were also at high risk. The people most directly affected were the young children and teenagers who had been exposed to the I-131. In the immediate aftermath I would assist the efforts to help the Children of Chernobyl.
In my capacity as a member of the UNAC, and working with the then UNAC President Mr. David Cadman, I provided wise counsel to Parliament, and assisted in efforts to establish a NGO Program, later supported by the Rt. Hon. Governor General of Canada the Rt. Hon. Raymond Hnatyshyn, and the Great Seal of the Parliament of Canada to lend direct and substantive assistance the Children of Chernobyl. Mr. Hnatyshyn, who served as Canada's Governor General from 1990 to 1995, was a Ukranian-Canadian and a Patron of the UNAC.
The Children of Chernobyl initiative opened the homes of Canadians of Ukrainian heritage to several thousand children directly affected by the catastrophe. This would provide them with good food, medical care and some time away from the catastrophe "hot zone".
It was my distinct pleasure to have also assisted in this initiative the late Mr. John Verigin of Grand Forks BC, a 1976 Recipient of the Order of Canada.
In 1989 in recognition for his efforts on behalf of the Children of Chernobyl Mr. Verigin would be the recipient of the Order of the Peopleâs Friendship from General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and in 1996 a recipient of the Order of British Columbia.
When Ukraine finally became a free people the Rt. Hon. Raymond Hnatyshyn would be Canada's first and most senior emissary to this new established European country and the grateful Children of Chernobyl would welcome him and Canadians to their homes with open arms.
I lost count but I think over 13,000 children from Ukraine benefited from our Children of Chernobyl Initiative.